be here (for) now: poco a poco

Little by little, this little life sneaks by us.
Little by little, these little moments stack up.
Little by little, the little things we do become the large stories we tell.
Little by little.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking (and therefore, talking) about the way this season impacts the little moments that become our days. Nature is slowing down and curling upon herself for the winter ahead. The slowing of the natural world highlights the wild pace at which we live. While it may be easy to blame our chaos on “holiday madness,” what we’re really feeling is the whiplash that results from ignoring Nature’s hints to slow with her. As a kid I used to spend hours at the park with friends on a merry-go-round, pushing each other as fast as we could and jumping off into the grass to see who could keep their balance the longest. Oddly reminiscent.

Flash forward to current moment, and I’m struggling to stay grounded when all I want is to be swept up with the excitement of the season. I’m fortunate because I have a lot that I’m looking forward to. Every day feels like the first day or two of a week-long vacation…so much to do and see, so much anticipation, but also the desire to soak up every moment. It’s the edge of a cliff that you are so excited to jump off that you forget to stop and take in the view from the top.

Three weeks from tomorrow my bags will be packed, my tears will be flowing, and my heart will be bursting as I make my way from my beloved adopted home in Austin to my treasured first one in the forests of New York. I’ll spend another three weeks there saturating myself with the love and warmth of family and lifelong friends, and then set sail for an untamed and unplanned journey to the jungle with my main squeeze. After years of talking, thinking, and dreaming, we finally pulled the trigger and started making the real changes that would enable us to live a life on the road. My toes are so close to the edge of that cliff that I can feel the breeze caressing my face every time I close my eyes.

But then I open my eyes again, and the real work begins. How can I keep these daydreaming eyes wide open for the last few weeks of this chapter? Rather than rushing ahead to the next chapter and speed reading until I find out what happens to the girl (!)…I am slowing down. Reveling in each sentence, each word. Reading the details between the lines of each moment that will ultimately foreshadow the future. It’s hard work, but it’s work that I choose. Choosing to slow when I want to move fast, when others want me to move fast, I move slow.

It’s not easy, and I get distracted easily. I’m busy prepping my bags and cleaning out my closets; mundane work that is fueled by reveries of waterfalls and soundscapes of the wild. But then I remind myself, Be here…for now. Be present in these little moments. Feel the hot Texas sun on your bones. Enjoy your morning stroll, rich in appreciation for your neighbors near and far. Blast some tunes as loud as you can when you clean the kitchen. Turn the radio off and roll the windows down on your commute. Say yes to dinner with friends on a work night. Say no to the things that lower your vibration. When I began practicing this little bit of mindfulness, my energy shot through the roof. I had been spending so much time on the merry-go-round of routine that I felt depleted and depressed. Once I jumped off, caught my balance, and sat in the grass looking up at the sky, the energy started flowing. Little by little, the daily practice of staying present began to feed my inspiration. I’m still working on it, but little by little, I know it will become my freedom, my refuge, and the springboard to my next big chapter. But don’t worry, I’ll take my time getting there. Little by little, I’m building my story.

Warning: This is a Rant. But I’d love for you to read it.

I’m upset.  My stomach is turning and words are stumbling out of my fingers wondering how far I’ll go before deleting this entire post and continuing on with my day.  As you may or may not have noticed from the lack of posts over the last 6, 8, 12 months…I’ve got shit to do today, I don’t have time to write.  But I think this is important.  So here it goes.

In light of recent events, there is a lot to be upset about.  Listening to the media would have you feeling like society as we know it is crumbling down to the ground one shot at a time. I’ve spent a good chunk of my time just wondering how much time I should spend thinking about my role in this- what should I think, how should I act; do I go about my day like nothing happened and keep high spirits?  Do I reach out to friends and followers on social media, expelling opinions like I’m turning a profit on them?  Times like these challenge our civility and beg the question: How do I Be?

Today was different.  I woke up to another report of a sickened individual with a vengeance grown on pure hatred and fear, hunting and haunting another group of innocent people.  Most alarmingly, my first thought was not what happened, but when will this happen next…and to whom?  I’ve come to realize that I no longer feel shocked by the radical actions of the chronically fearful, but instead I myself feel fear for when these same individuals forcefully enter my personal circle.  Fear.  The same emotion I’ve been unpacking since starting this blog.  Fear and all its friends.

Still, this isn’t what I’m here for.  It was a later news report that finally tipped the scales.  Enter the newly passed GOP Platform. Yes, it’s getting political.  Feel free to jump off the ship now if you want, no questions asked.  The GOP Platform, amidst the chaos that surrounds this obsessively publicized campaign, has decided to move to the right of DONALD TRUMP when it comes to LGBT issues.  As in, stamping a big exclamation point on the otherwise fading ultra-conservative subgroup of constituents.  As in, including language that is specifically symbolic in nature to further solidify the party’s efforts to marginalize a community just as it grasps its first glimpse of equality along the horizon.  As in, forcing an ill-equipped and abused teenage girl into become a parent while legislating away the right of a loving couple to provide a safe home to a child.  As in, alienating an entire community from the conservative ballot and consequently invigorating partisan extremism.  As in, planting a nearly identical seed of the institutionalized inequality- and subsequent fear/hate therein- that has driven us to this point in the first place; at the risk of overusing a cliche, history unlearned is doomed to repeat itself.  There are countless incomprehensible prime-time news stories today that will become the incomprehensible histories for future generations to examine…but this is something we are actively choosing to allow by passively refusing to take control.

When it comes to the tragedies and the travesties that have thrust their way into our daily experience at increasing frequencies, I am at a loss for answers.  We cannot change the demented crusade that has berated our society, we can only learn from it.  Our individual lessons will not be duplicated, but they will lend meaningful action to the collective conversation when transmitted from the heart.  My lesson: do not draw lines between what someone can and cannot do because of an arbitrary category that the disembodied voice of the masses has created.  Do not cheapen the experience of another because you have not shared in it- they are not wrong for the lessons life has passed to them and not you.  Do not give in to the fear of an ego that accepts only sameness in others.  Celebrate the differences, show love to a stranger, and treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.  Spill out the courage and impartiality from your heart to drown the flames of hatred rather than feeding them with fear.  Find the little cracks that YOU can change- be it a targeted joke, throwing fair and informed punches in constructive arguments, or simply letting that car merge on the freeway- and patch them before they split wide open in a cataclysmic debasement of Us.  I could care less who you are voting for in November so long as you know what you are supporting.  The history books are counting on you.

Gen Why: The Problem with Millennials

The Millennials.  Oh, the Millennials.  Everyone has something to say about this rambunctious group of young people taking over the planet…literally (pun intended…literally).  Who are we?  Why are we making headlines?  And why is it so damn hard to understand us?  The corporate world doesn’t know what to do with us; Marketing firms have their very own subject devoting to engaging us; Older generations scoff at us just hoping the next generation will save us…and if you’re anything like me, our parents are absolutely terrified of us.  I’m not speaking from experience, but as far as I’ve heard, we are something so acutely undefined that society trembles at the mere thought of us.  But here’s the kicker…our numbers indicate that WE are society.  So, what is it that makes us so different than every other generation?

Problem No. 1: Definitions

Generation Y is loosely defined as anyone born in the time spanning the early 80’s to early 2000s.  We’re the first crowd to come of age in the new millennium (ahem, the name).  Anyone from 12 to their mid thirties could technically be categorized as a Millennial, and that’s a huge spread.  In some cases, parents could be in the same generation as their kids.  How exactly are you supposed to define a group of people so large?  It’s easy, just use the word diverse, which is admittedly accurate but about as telling as the Natural Flavor label we’re all protesting.  Trying to confine us to this ambiguous un-definition is a problem.  And you wonder why we’re all so avidly trying to break away from labels!  The one that is most commonly ascribed to us is completely irrelevant, so it follows that we rebel against any others you try to pin to us.

Problem No. 2: Society’s Box

We are essential a society of boxes.  Humans just love to categorize things, it’s the way our brain works (or so the brainiest in our society tell us).  Millennials are sick of the categories, and we aren’t confining ourselves to the solid structures our parents so happily passed on to us.  We grew up in hand-me-downs and we don’t want or need any more of them.  Our world is quite literally bigger than our parents’ was as we grow more and more connected and find easier ways to experience life in every different corner of the world.  Backpacking through Europe for the summer out of college has turned into years spent as nomads chasing our dreams and living on pennies, smiles, and the pure knowledge acquired from living in cahoots with foreign soul siblings.  We embrace the ways in which we don’t fit in a box, and celebrate the uniqueness in others.  We all go through the same awkward, mortifying (thanks to the explosion of social media, selfies, and the “share” button) stages in life when our confidence is knee high to a grasshopper, but luckily the elders of our beloved Gen Y are there for us with powerful campaigns to reach out to each other in moments of need.  The confidence that follows is a force to be reckoned with.

Problem No. 3: Success

It’s suddenly cool to have a passion, not stacks of cash.  We absolutely do not define the quality of our life by the depth of our pockets.  And who could blame us for questioning this paradigm?  We went to college like we were told, traded our souls for a diploma, and got strapped with crippling debt that will last until we’re sixty.  Money means almost nothing to a person with $100,000 of debt accruing interest- especially when it was spent on a Brand (college) of education that does almost nothing in the workforce. When we do amass a bit of extra money, we spend it on things that improve the richness of our experience, not flashy toys to look at.  If you ask most of us, we’d be perfectly happy living a simple life on the country side surrounded by the ones we love;  Love is the thing that drives us- a love for each other, a love for a cause, and most importantly, a love for ourselves.  You would never ask the person you love most to work a lousy job that made them absolutely miserable.  As we grow into the shoes of self-love, we treat ourselves with this same tenderness.  So yes, the head honchos of previous generations may call us soft and unmotivated…but more than likely it’s because we’re gearing up to walk out of that awfully lit cubicle for the last time with a big ol’ Fuck It stamped to our backs.  You can’t quit something you never really started.  More and more Millennials are rising to executive levels and six-figure positions and trading it all in to follow their dreams.  Don’t take it personally, ‘cus we don’t.

Problem No. 4: Entitlement

It’s easy to get caught up in stereotypes of the few of us that emit the pungent air of Entitlement wherever they go, but don’t put that on all of us; there are bound to be a few in every crowd.  It’s not so much that these folks are bad, they are an extreme case of what a lot of us believe in: the idea that there is more to life than just getting a job, finding a S.O. to marry (in extravagant fashion), having kids…you know the story.  This is not to say that Millennials are anti-marriage or family, we are just waiting longer to dive in.  We are living longer than ever and there is less of an emphasis on the race to family life.  We are beginning to understand the difference it makes to know who you are before you try to raise another human or promise your life to one.  In true Millennial fashion, we question the societal pressure to “settle down” and its apparent measure of well-being.  Back to Entitlement- I will be the first to admit that there is certainly a crowd of folks in our generation that wear this word proudly and make the rest of us shake our heads.  However, there is also a bit of a blurred line between Entitled and Unsatisfied.  We are more willing to up and quit it all not because we feel that our 40 hours aren’t valued, but because we don’t value those 40 hours.  If it feels like a waste of time or goes against the standards we’ve set for ourselves, no amount of money will make us feel satisfaction.

Problem No. 5: Gen Why

My very favorite attribute of my fellow Millennials; we are the pinnacle, the epitome, the alpha, and the omega of the WHY.  We simply do not allow a statement to linger unquestioned.  We are curious creatures with an affinity for investigating.  If you tell us it’s healthy, we want to know exactly what it has in it and why it belongs in our body.  If you tell us its dangerous, we want to know who decided and how they came to that conclusion.  We absolutely do not adhere to the “Because I said so” or even the simple “No.”  We care about what is going on in (and to) the world, and we’ve lost a lot of trust in authority figures  (sorry y’all, but you haven’t been exactly a beacon of assurance!).  The idea that someone has a more important voice than any other someone is suffocating to us, and we won’t stand for it.  We have an unprecedented understanding of the different walks of life that bring us all to the same table, and we value each and every individual as much as we value ourselves.  We know that experience fosters learning, and given that each person will experience life through different eyes and realities, we are hungry to learn from and with one another in a mutual exchange of information achieved through good conversation, a bit of wine, and a lot of questions.

Last Thoughts

Millennials are inquisitive folks, and we have infinite access to information at the tips of our fingers.  We have the ability, creativity, and information we need to follow our passions and we do so.  We enjoy making connections–rather than competitions–with each other.  We’re finding our deepest selves and what makes us tick in a way that no generation has taken the time to, and it’s making us more confident and innovative than ever before.  Our generation spans almost 30 years of growing, and we’ve got a lot to show for it.  But maybe Millennials aren’t so different, maybe society is undergoing a “House on Mango Street”-esque coming of age.  We challenge the boundaries that the previous generation has created to keep society in line and in doing so we are inspiring growth, connectivity, and an ambiguity in which this fearless generation takes comfort.

A Note on Hipsters: Okay, yes, I too giggle at people that spend inordinate amounts of money to get clothing that looks just thrifty enough…but I also spend more time than I’m willing to admit putting on makeup that looks like I’m not wearing makeup so am I really one to judge?  Nah.  The case I want to address here is when people, even Millennials, complain about “the hipsters taking over.”  I live in Austin, Texas.  I get it.  But you’d probably be lying if you said hipsters don’t bring their own gamut of insanely delicious food and drink.  It’s creativity that you can physically consume and it’s fantastic.  Often pricey, but fantastic.  Now, if you’re going to charge me $7 for a PBR I’ll probably just turn around and leave.  But then again, I probably wouldn’t order one anyways when you have such a huge selection of locally crafted beers on tap.  Stop hating on the hipsters yall!